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Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Happy Brainniversary

It's quite possible, for you, that June 22nd, 2004 was just like any other day.

Then again, maybe it wasn't. I don't know. Maybe your nephew was getting Bar Mitzvahed. Maybe you scratched-and-won. Maybe you twisted your ankle in a pothole while walking to a bar for a blind date with the woman who ended up becoming your wife. Maybe it was the night you saw your first Broadway play or the day you first tried venison or the afternoon you stood in line behind Gene Hackman at Starbucks.

June 22nd, 2004 wasn't just like any other day for me. And it certainly wasn't just like any other day for Mrs. Apron. June 22nd, 2004 was the day she got wheeled into an operating room at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania where she was put to sleep while surgeons shaved an inch-or-so line on her head, like a headband, sliced, pulled the skin down, sawed through her skull, drilled holes in her head, dug around in there, snipped, clipped, and drained, for approximately 9 hours before they finished up. And put Humpty Dumpty back together again-- just like she was before.


I tell her that she's funnier now, and maybe that's true. I don't know. I don't remember quite as many zingers before she underwent brain surgery-- but maybe I just didn't know her well enough at that point for her sense-of-humor to really come out. After all, mine tends to dwarf most people's.

And that's what she said.

To think that Mrs. Apron's surgery was seven years ago is pretty amazing to me. There are certain things I remember about that day that will never be erased. I remember the way she smelled-- and it wasn't good. Her smell scared me. It was a mixture of sweat and blood and gore and unclean hair and antiseptic and burned bone.

I kissed her and cuddled her anyway. In her hospital bed. And the young resident, whose name was Hunan, walked in and saw us spooning in the Stryker bed and he smiled. "You guys have got the right idea," he said.

There are things I've forgotten, but I remember most of it. Between the two of us, we remember most of it. Her mother playing harp in her hospital room, me unable to eat salad in the cafeteria with my parents, sleeping on the floor in the waiting room, her falling against a trashcan while trying to prove that she was ready to be discharged.

Which she was. Against medical advice, of course.

I know when my wife is about to start crying now, because the left side of her mouth curls down before the first tear makes its appearance. It's the only thing about my beautiful bride that's ugly. It's ugly not even because the fact of her lip curling down is physically ugly, it's ugly because it's like a slap in the face for me, a memory of the most truly awful day and weeks and months I ever experienced-- the time where my love was broken and healing-- slowly.

There are bumps on her head, too, where the skull is imperfectly mended. If you move her hair around, you can see the fleshy, pink spots where no hair grows. I kiss the top of her head a lot, and I feel those bumpy little ridges all the time on my lips.

It could have been much worse. I know.

I don't cry anymore, when I think about it-- at least, I haven't in a while. We were sitting together on the couch in our old place watching TV or something and, out of the corner of my eye, I spied her cane, long since forgotten about, just leaning innocuously against the wall, and I cried. She had tied a pink grosgrain ribbon all along the cane, and it looked like a maypole. When Mrs. Apron, her sister, and I went to see the fourth of July fireworks that year, Mrs. Apron said she would keep people away from our blanket by hitting them with her "whompin' stick". And we laughed. But, much later, seeing her whompin' stick made me cry.

As we prepare to embark on the journey of becoming parents of twins, I am actually relieved that we have already been through something like neurosurgey side-by-side. It showed me that the world may be big and bad, but so are we. My mother wrote Mrs. Apron and I a card while Mrs. Apron was recovering and she wrote, "Together, You Can Do Anything."

Thank you, Mom.

Happy Brainniversary, Mrs. Apron.

I love you.

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